At Shopify, we believe climate change can’t be ignored. That’s why, for the second year in a row, we’re addressing the environmental impact of the global shopping weekend known as Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM) by counteracting the carbon emissions that come from shipping every single order on our platform.
That’s five global days, tens of millions of purchases from over 1.7 million Shopify merchants, and countless packages being transported around the world. So how will we do this?
In 2020, we offset nearly 62,000 tonnes of carbon emissions, the equivalent of carbon captured and stored by 80,970 acres of North American forests in one year. In 2021, we anticipate it will be even more. As the number of merchants on our platform grows every year, this initiative grows in importance. With every additional purchase, Shopify is channeling more money into carbon removal.
Investing in carbon removal is critical
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world needs to reach net-zero emissions by 2050 in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Achieving this across all sectors globally isn’t going to happen with emissions reductions alone.
Enter carbon removal. While the world rightly pushes to reduce emissions, capturing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it permanently can help us slow the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere now, not to mention pull the past 200 years of emissions back out of the air.
The problem is that most carbon removal solutions are expensive and in short supply, and they need more customers to reach the scale the world needs. At Shopify, we’re committed to being a customer of carbon removal to kickstart the market, and we’re bringing our merchants along with us on this journey.
Atmospheric carbon removal
This year our BFCM offsets will come from four leading carbon removal companies, across four verticals. It’s important to note that these aren’t your average offsets with questionable climate impact. These are companies pursuing high-quality carbon removal technologies and solutions that are already working to reverse climate change, and will do so even more as they scale.
CarbonCure: CarbonCure’s technologies inject carbon dioxide into concrete, with zero impact to the material’s quality and performance. We’re supporting the company now as it scales its technologies and lays the groundwork for atmospheric capture paired with permanent storage. It recently passed a milestone of 15 million cubic yards of carbon mineralized concrete, the equivalent of taking more than 29,000 cars off the road.
Charm Industrial: Plants are very efficient at capturing carbon from the air. Charm turns plant waste into bio oil and safely stores it underground. Having permanently stored the most atmospheric carbon to date, it is one of the leading carbon removal companies in the world.
Grassroots Carbon: It helps ranchers modify their land management practices to improve soil and ecological health, which captures and stores more carbon in their soils. The company just measured soil carbon on the first group of ranches and will release carbon credits after independent third-party verification.
Pachama: Pachama uses satellite imagery and machine learning to measure carbon captured in forests, ensuring every carbon credit purchased delivers its stated climate impact. For BFCM, our purchase will prevent deforestation and support the communities of Acapa and Bajo Mira y Frontera in Colombia.
Most importantly, we need to decarbonize transportation
Of course, there’s a more efficient way to eliminate the climate impact of shipping packages over BFCM.
This is certainly the goal, but even with recent advancements toward reducing emissions across transportation, we still have a long way to go.
Shopify wants to accelerate this, but it’s difficult to know exactly where to plug in and which levers to pull. To solve this, we asked the leading scientific experts at Carbon Direct to conduct a deep analysis of the sector and state of the science. The following emerged:
A few key takeaways for Shopify include:
Problem: The transportation sector is responsible for approximately one-quarter of global carbon emissions from fossil fuel combustion, at 8.5 gigatonnes per year. The sector needs to reduce emissions by this amount or more to avoid the worst effects of climate change.
Status: The development and deployment of electric vehicles for light-duty transport is on track, but emission reductions depend on a cleaner electricity grid. Technologies to decarbonize heavy-duty road transport, marine shipping, and aviation are in their early stages of development and need the most support.
Actions: Shopify can help accelerate progress by sending a demand signal that we are willing to pay a short-term “green premium” for clean fuels, and by supporting electricity grid decarbonization.
From policy makers, vehicle manufacturers, and clean-tech companies developing alternatives to petroleum-based fuels to carriers shipping goods around the world, companies selecting shipping options, and individual consumer decisions, this is going to take a monumental effort from everyone involved.
We’re using this paper to guide our own efforts. The solutions are emerging. Now we need to accelerate innovation and adoption. Shopify plans to lean in.
Illustration by Borja Bonaque
by Stacy Kauk